29 May 2012

Class of '87...25 years ago

Grace's Class of 1987-I'm middle-right
There is a reason why 25ths are associated with silver.  I think primarily it is due to the streaks of silver that begin to show on one's head leading up to certain 25 year celebrations.  I must be due for a 25th.

And a week or so ago I realized, while calculating someones age based on their birth year, whoa-ho....2012 should mark my 25th class reunion.  And within a few days of that realization it must have hit one of my fellow classmates because she sent a facebook message suggesting we plan an event.

Now, what makes things both extremely easy, and difficult maybe, with my class of '87 is its large number of graduates:  6.  Six people are easy enough to communicate with....although one guy has disappeared, his whereabouts from the time he was last in Wisconsin are unknown.  But then you can't just set a date and say, "well who comes, comes.."  That's not right.  So....we're hoping that the other two who moved out of state can make it back home again to Indiana this year.  Our 10 year reunion was particularly easy to plan....half of our class happened to run into each other on sidewalk days in 1997 and planned it right then and there.  I'm looking forward to this year's reunion.

Now in honor of probably the best year ever.....yes, still talking about 1987.....here is some trivia from 25 years ago:

Ronald Reagan was still President....though Ollie North's popularity was surpassing the Gipper's.  Both televangelist Jimmy Bakker and Democratic presidential candidate Gary Hart found their demise due to their respective affairs.

The New York Giants were Superbowl XXI Champs while our own IU won the NCAA Basketball Tournament.

Most famous quote of 1987?  "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall"  Wall or not, Gorby was Time's man of the year, but Spuds McKenzie was the people's choice.

The Last Emperor won best film.  Shelly Long (Indiana's own) left Cheers and the Cosby Show ranked #1.  And what song was #1 when I graduated?  U2's With or Without You.

While some people can look back and say they'd change nothing about high school.....I realized some time ago, probably because I am such a different guy now than what I was, I would change a lot.  I would have more fun.  I would get in more trouble.....or get in trouble for the right reasons.  I would stick up for people I should have, and probably would have kicked my own butt if I had the values then that I have now.  How can it possibly be 25 years ago?

23 May 2012

Isaiah 58

Prophet Isaiah by Michelangelo in the Sistine Chapel
So I've been reading through the book of Isaiah......and it is taking me much longer than I care to admit.  Last week I finally reached chapter 58 which is one of my favorite passages in the Bible.  I have written quite a bit about how I believe the Evangelical church in America is mis-directed in much of its approach of Gospel, or to put it another way....its neglect of the Gospel.  As I read Isaiah 58 again, I wondered if the prophet could have been writing this to the church in America today. I know that it was meant for the people of Israel, but check it out.  While I'm reading it in the New King James Version, I thought I would post it in the Message for a different perspective.

Isaiah 58
Your Prayers Won't Get Off the Ground
1-3 "Shout! A full-throated shout! Hold nothing back—a trumpet-blast shout!
Tell my people what's wrong with their lives, face my family Jacob with their sins!

They're busy, busy, busy at worship, and love studying all about me.
To all appearances they're a nation of right-living people— law-abiding, God-honoring.
They ask me, 'What's the right thing to do?' and love having me on their side.

But they also complain, 'Why do we fast and you don't look our way?
Why do we humble ourselves and you don't even notice?'

3-5"Well, here's why:
"The bottom line on your 'fast days' is profit.
You drive your employees much too hard.
You fast, but at the same time you bicker and fight.
You fast, but you swing a mean fist.

The kind of fasting you do won't get your prayers off the ground.
Do you think this is the kind of fast day I'm after: a day to show off humility?
To put on a pious long face and parade around solemnly in black?

Do you call that fasting, a fast day that I, God, would like?

6-9"This is the kind of fast day I'm after: to break the chains of injustice,
get rid of exploitation in the workplace, free the oppressed, cancel debts.

What I'm interested in seeing you do is: sharing your food with the hungry,
inviting the homeless poor into your homes, putting clothes on the shivering ill-clad,
being available to your own families.

Do this and the lights will turn on, and your lives will turn around at once.
Your righteousness will pave your way. The God of glory will secure your passage.
Then when you pray, God will answer. You'll call out for help and I'll say, 'Here I am.'

A Full Life in the Emptiest of Places
9-12"If you get rid of unfair practices, quit blaming victims, quit gossiping about other people's sins,
If you are generous with the hungry and start giving yourselves to the down-and-out,
Your lives will begin to glow in the darkness, your shadowed lives will be bathed in sunlight.
I will always show you where to go. I'll give you a full life in the emptiest of places— firm muscles, strong bones.

You'll be like a well-watered garden, a gurgling spring that never runs dry.
You'll use the old rubble of past lives to build anew, rebuild the foundations from out of your past.
You'll be known as those who can fix anything, restore old ruins, rebuild and renovate, make the community livable again.

13-14"If you watch your step on the Sabbath and don't use my holy day for personal advantage,
If you treat the Sabbath as a day of joy, God's holy day as a celebration,
If you honor it by refusing 'business as usual, making money, running here and there—
Then you'll be free to enjoy God!

Oh, I'll make you ride high and soar above it all.
I'll make you feast on the inheritance of your ancestor Jacob."
Yes! God says so!

22 May 2012

21 May 2012

About the birds and the trees

Ash-lined drive at the Hill
Sycamore Hill is a regular bird-lover's paradise and for some reason this spring seems to be particularly busy for the little feathered folks.  In one week at the beginning of May we recorded 47 different species of birds up here on the hill.  A good showing by a wide variety of warblers and other spring migrating birds inflated that list.  These include the Yellow Warbler, Common Yellow throat, and the Cerulean Warbler.  A Scarlet Tanager also hung around for several days and at one time was within just 15 feet of the kitchen window.  Orioles abound too.  Almost without fail these smaller birds are working at a feverish pitch to glean bugs from the tips of our ash trees.

Yellow Warbler
I finally put 2 and 2 together with the number of warblers we have and the number of ash trees we have.  Probably not long after our house was built the farmer planted ash tree around the homestead.  There are 13 of these big trees now, several line our driveway.  I'm hoping the ash borer doesn't find them.

Cerulean Warbler

A warm spring evening brought the sound of a Whippoorwill....we've never had that here before.  A pair of Wood ducks have been camped out in the creek so my dad gave me a Wood duck box I've yet to hang up.  But one of the more interesting developments occurred just the other night.  It appears the squawking, mating pair of Barn Owls is back....though their call seems to be a little further off in the distance, which suits my wife just fine.  The pair was here our first summer, 2010, and we learned that they are pretty rare in Northern Indiana.
Barn Owl

14 May 2012

Under the Big Top Again

The Kellys and me in Peru
Well, it became official a few weeks ago....the Terrell Jacobs Circus Winter Quarters along U.S. 31 near Peru has achieved National Register status.  And it literally became a 3-ring circus.

Circus wagon and "Modoc" the legendary elephant
I don’t know how many kids who ran away to join the circus have left a legacy worthy to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places, but Miami County native Terrell Jacobs did just that. At 13 Jacobs, having been fascinated with the Wallace Circus Quarters, followed his heart which led to his ultimate distinction of being known nationally as The Lion King. Jacobs continues to hold the record of having the most big cats at one time in a single cage under his whip. 52 snarling lions and tigers….oh my!

Terrell Jacobs the "Lion King"
In 1939 his heart called him back to his beloved circus city in hope that he could renew Peru’s place in the world of circus entertainment. He and his wife purchased several acres along Pipe Creek. He set out to develop what he called Jungleland; a place where the public could see the animals of the circus first hand. The cat barn, complete with training ring and beautifully painted cages, was the first building Jacobs constructed. A bunkhouse, slaughterhouse, elephant barn, and grotto to Ben Wallace followed. The development became the winter home to some of the country’s leading circuses.
The Lion & Tiger Barn and Elephant Barn on U.S. 31

Jacobs died rather suddenly on Christmas Eve morning in 1957, but not before his dream of returning the great circus tradition to Peru came true. His winter quarters ensures the city’s continued title as Circus City.

When Paul and Dorothy Kelly purchased the winter quarters in 1955, they had similar aspirations as Terrell Jacobs. They envisioned a sort of kiddie-land to continue to provide the magic of the circus to the public, as well as continue the wintering tradition of circuses in Peru. The Kellys were no strangers to circus life. Paul Kelly’s family traces their roots to the original Ringling Brothers Circus and Shrine Circus in 1898. Dorothy Kelly was one of the leading elephant trainers of her time and was frequently called upon to make performances with various circuses.

Painted cages in the Lion Barn
When it looked certain that a highway project would eliminate this historic circus quarters from the landscape, Paul Kelly intervened and persuaded the state to preserve this landmark. And now, almost 50 years later, state officials formally presented a certificate to Mrs. Kelly certifying its landmark status at a circus-worthy event held in Peru last Friday afternoon.  Mrs. Kelly and her son Ed continue as guardians and ardent storytellers of this uniquely Hoosier landmark on U.S. 31.  Mrs. Kelly hopes to see another big event in October when she will turn 100 on the 13th.  Best wishes ahead of time!

09 May 2012

Death of a Statesman

The Senator
As I listened to Senator Lugar's concession speech last night, I couldn't help but think that he was reading his own epitaph.  He mentioned, paraphrasing, crossing the aisle to do what is best for America.  This used to be what we expected out of our elected officials.  At one time we ascribed a certain honor to our officials who worked in the best interest of our state, or our nation, regardless of party affiliation.  We called them "Statesmen".

But it seemed last night we witnessed the cumulative death of the Statesman.  This idea of working together is not only out of vogue, but it is held in disdain.......by Mr. Lugar's replacement no less!  How odd to think that character qualities we once embraced and revered were so carelessly thrown aside yesterday.  And now those qualities we once considered noxious to our general well-being we herald.  In 2006 Senator Lugar was still our party's hero and our state's shining star.

Now people have been conditioned to call out Senator Lugar's age and residency, which have never been issues with the GOP before (remember Lugar hasn't had a "residence" in Indiana since 1977-that's a lot of elections), but the real situation comes down to extreme political views and outside sources that spotted an opportunity.  Not a single person I have talked to could tell me anything about Murdock, his record or his political views.  They talked about Lugar being Obama's favorite Republican.  How dastardly.  How ridiculous.

The political landscape has changed so abruptly in this country.  This is probably due to two things-people's outright hatred for the President and the influence that money has had unlike anything we have ever seen before.  Obama will go away, probably in 2013, but the money won't.  But I think there is an underlying culture of entitlement that once was only a condition we placed on the left, now deeply rooted in the right.  This entitlement is defended with a corruption of the rules that govern our nation by people who haven't the understanding of government, or much more disturbing, the understanding of responsibility.  They believe they do of course.....but then they systematically dismantle the pillars that have made this country great.

All too often I comment to my wife that this will be a very different world we will live in, in another decade or two.  Draconian measures passed by people propped up by those who stand to benefit financially seems to be in our near future.  A new single party monopoly with a my way only attitude will ensure this.  This is not the party of Reagan, and not the party of my father or grandfather.  I think what we are witnessing is the "me first" culture expanded now to public office.

Now-for the record-I was against the bank bailouts that were first pursued by George W.  I've been against much of the stimulus promoted by the President AND Mitch Daniels.  I am against the mandate for health insurance on individuals.  I felt that the auto bailout was unnecessary.  But here's the thing-there are a lot of my fellow-Republicans who have benefited, some very directly, from these programs.....and they likely were the ones who voted to "retire Lugar" yesterday.  Well, prepare yourselves for a very different America....there may be an "I told you so" moment in the future.

02 May 2012

What a day of prayer could look like...

Tomorrow marks a day set aside for a national day of prayer.

In community halls, chapels, courthouse squares, and banquet rooms across the country ministers, politicians, and laymen will stand before us and ask us to join them in turning for a moment to pray.  Politicians will make their appearances and whether sincere or not, will likely remark on the founding fathers' faith and a need  for Christian values to dominate American culture.

And ministers will ask for God's blessing on our country.  And prayers will go out for America to return to God, a misnomer really.  We might ask for forgiveness and be repentant of national sin, really a code for all the bad things the church isn't responsible for.  And we will pray for our President and officials....that they will see the light.  And we will pray for the protection of our troops who are fighting for our freedoms overseas.  And everyone says together "Amen".  And thus concludes our national day of prayer.

And so we've done our job.  We've asked God to fix what is broken in America, and we'll help Him out when we turn out the scoundrels in the elections coming up.

What I think should proceed the national day of prayer is a national day of reflection.  A day when we can be honest with ourselves and use the Word of God as a mirror from which we examine our own hearts and actions.  Unfortunately it seems the national day of prayer has become a tool for the church in America to insert itself as the standard for the rest of the nation rather than a purposeful way to bring change to the church.

Because we're not the problem, right?  Those people outside the church are what's wrong with America and they need to face up to the fact that America is a Christian nation.  And of course, if they can't accept that then they should leave.  Then, no doubt God's blessing would return.  This is what we think, and some go so far as to actually say.

The biggest hindrance to people coming to Christ isn't what is going on outside of the church.  It is the collective church in America.  It is the image we promote as a message of non-tolerance is broadcasted by both preacher and "christian" politician.  It is our own embrace of an American culture that runs counter-culture to the gospel of Christ.  And we dare to insert our political demands as Americans above our responsibilities as followers of Jesus Christ.  I think it is time for the church to fall to our knees because we can't possibly stand in the gap for a hurting nation until we remove the mote from our own eyes.

Tomorrow I would ask you, if you are a Christian, to join me in prayer that God would first reveal to the church in America our own shortcomings in following Him.  Pray with me that the church would be broken and that we would understand what it means to live for Christ in our communities around us.  Pray with me that politics are removed from our pulpits and our hearts.  Pray with me that the church is able to discern what in American culture has become a weight and hindrance from enjoying God's true blessing in our lives.  Pray with me, rather than God bless America, God remove greed from our hearts.  For what we may think is our rights and God's blessing may be what is removing us from His favor.  Pray with me that rather than America returning to God........that His church would.